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Wachusett Reservoir Watershed Public Access Plan
Comments by Craig Della Penna 413 575 2277 CraigDP413@gmail.com
The Mass Central Rail Trail today has 53 miles open and in two years it will be 75 miles open. Recently, the Town of Clinton partnering with the local land trust purchased the tunnel to the right of the picture along with all the ex RR land to the border with Berlin. The bridge in the top picture will undoubtedly be rebuilt as a bike-ped bridge in the coming years.
My direct comments about the Wachusett Reservoir are two fold. . .
1. Opening the top of the dam to public access
2. Removing the active hazardous railroad through the isthmus bisecting the reservoir.
1. At least, in the interim until the bridge is rebuilt, the top of the dam should be open for people walking/biking and a route from the tunnel to the dam needs to be developed. You won't be inventing the wheel on this.
The image below shows the image today at Quabbin Reservoir where the MWRA maintains a 24 hour webcam. Link to the web-cam is here. https://www.mwra.com/qcam.html . To the right is an image is a shot from Google Maps showing more walkers on top of Winsor Dam there. The irony is that people in the Pioneer Valley know this is a great location to go for a walk because local television channels show the Quabbin Cam on their weather broadcasts every day. People in the Central Mass region don't seem to be aware of this and they think it is normal to have the top of a reservoir dam closed.
2. In 2018 there was a "dirty-dirt" train, a trainload of contaminated dirt, from a brownfield cleanup in the Boston area that derailed and it came ever so close to landing in the Wachusett Reservoir. Read the story to the right about this event, in Atlantic Rails & Ports--a railroad industry newsletter.
I would imagine that there has always been great angst in your agency about a derailment on that isthmus, the ultimate disaster scenario, but it has never been addressed. I could go into great depth about the scary commodities that are unnecessarily running in close proximity to your pristine resource.
Instead, just take a quick and easy lesson from New York where the NYC Water Department removed a tourist train that was running next to their Ashokan Reservoir. They then instead put in a rail trail. Reservoir officials in NY no longer lie awake worrying about unnecessary disasters. A similar thing is about to happen to a reservoir in southern Maine.
Just remember this. There are simply no time sensitive commodities running on this line through the Wachusett Reservoir. Zero. And every train on this line could be run through Greenfield and continue either west or south from there. The tracks on the Greenfield route are high-quality and present no complications for the railroad. There is always something hazardous on the trains going through the reservoir and there is always something stupid as well. Some of the "stupid" traffic believe it or not is bottled-water from Poland Springs in Maine. Yes, shipping bottles of water 200+ mile via rail.
Below is a link to the public facing site for the Ashokan Rail Trail and some of the story about how the trail came to be. If you want a deep-dive into the back stories about the NYC Water Department's angst concerning the Ashokan Reservoir, let me know.
Click on the images below
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